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Bifurcation Divorce

What is a Bifurcation Divorce in California?

Suppose you are going through a divorce in California, but the case takes a long time to get a judgment. In that case, a bifurcation could help you move forward faster by changing your status from married to single. Yet, simultaneously, you continue to litigate other divorce-related issues in a family law court.

Bifurcation allows spouses in a divorce to be restored to single persons' status while dealing with other pending issues.

The term “bifurcate” basically means to divide, meaning that in a divorce case, it deals with the issue of marital status and separates it from all other unresolved problems, such as child custody, support, visitation, and the division of property.

What is a Bifurcation Divorce in California?
A bifurcation divorce allows spouses to be restored to a single-person status while issues are pending.

Of note is that a bifurcation will only result in the termination of your marital status by restoring both spouses to a single-person status.

The spouse seeking to terminate marital status while other issues are unresolved has to ask the family court for a separate hearing to address the sole issue of their marital status, which means they are requesting a bifurcation (form FL-347). 

Of note is that the family court judge will not grant a request for bifurcation of marital status unless six months have passed since the date the respondent was served, which is a mandatory requirement. A “respondent” is the spouse who did not file for the divorce.

The requesting spouse has to have valid reasons why the court should terminate the marriage. Then, the judge could either grant or deny the request for bifurcation.

Further, before filing a motion for bifurcation, you must have filled out and served your Declaration of Disclosure (form FL-141) on your spouse.

You will also need to serve on your spouse a completed Schedule of Assets and Debts (form FL-142) and Income and Expense Declaration (form FL-150).

These documents are crucial to California's divorce because they disclose each spouse's property and income. Let's review this topic in more detail below.

What Are the Reasons for Bifurcation?

Sometimes, divorces have complex issues that take a significant amount of time to resolve, such as high net worth involving substantial community assets.

This means the divorce proceedings could take multiple mediation sessions or time-consuming negotiations with your spouse to reach a divorce settlement agreement. Further, if kids are involved, the court's primary responsibility is to ensure their decisions are in the children's best interests, which can take time.

Simply put, a bifurcated divorce separates the divorce into two parts, the legal and the personal, so spouses can move forward with their lives while awaiting settlement agreements and judgments on the finances.

There are different reasons you may want to seek a bifurcation of marital status, which could be beneficial for both spouses. Perhaps you will want to pursue bifurcation for any of the following reasons:

  • To terminate your married status and go back to single;
  • To file income taxes as “single” or “head of household;”
  • Your divorce case has been pending for a long time;
  • There is no resolution on child custody, visitation, support, etc.;
  • There are still pending issues in the property division;
  • You want your name to be restored to your maiden name;
  • You want to get remarried to someone else.

Of note is that bifurcation of marital status will not resolve all the issues, but it will allow you to return to your position as a single person.

How Does Bifurcation Work?

As noted, bifurcation ends a married status and restores their single status while there are unresolved legal issues in their divorce, such as dividing marital assets, debts, community, and separate property.

How Does Bifurcation Work?
A bifurcation separates some important issues.

Suppose the divorcing couple has high-net-worth, high assets, owns a business or professional practice, or other complex financial issues.

In that case, litigation could take months or years to resolve these matters.

With a bifurcated divorce in California, the family court judge can grant their petition to separate their personal and legal issues.

The legal issues that a bifurcation separates into a separate issue from the dissolution of marriage include the following:

  • Child support;
  • Child custody and visitation;
  • Spousal support (alimony);
  • Determining separation date;
  • Dividing marital and separate property;
  • Property division;
  • Dividing assets and debts;
  • Enforcement of prenuptial agreement;
  • Validity of postnuptial agreement;
  • Bankruptcy.

For some people getting a divorce, a bifurcation can allow either spouse to move forward with their lives faster and not have to wait to settle any disputes.

Perhaps one spouse is highly bitter and wants to drag out litigation as long as possible as revenge. A bifurcation could end the legal status of being married quicker, but it doesn't end the unresolved legal issues.

How Can You Get a Bifurcated Divorce in California?

Any spouse seeking to bifurcate their California divorce has to file a request to the family court that includes an explanation of why they want their marital status restored to single. The terms that are required for a bifurcation include the following:

  • Six-month waiting period to file for a marriage dissolution;
  • Complete and serve a financial disclosure on your spouse;
  • Possible reimbursement of any tax consequences;
  • Possibility of maintaining insurance for the other spouse;
  • Other spouse receives compensation for a pension plan;
  • Compensation for the loss of death benefits.

You will be required to appear in a family court for the hearing. A bifurcation is only beneficial for some getting a divorce, so you should consult an experienced California divorce lawyer.

Terminating your marital status does not mean your entire divorce case is final. The other issues will continue in court as if the bifurcation never occurred.

How Can You Get a Bifurcated Divorce in California?
Contact our family law attorneys for help.

The bifurcation, such as employee pension plans, retirement plans, medical insurance coverage, and some tax liability issues, will impact some property division issues.

To respond to a motion for bifurcation, you can file a response if your spouse has filed a motion for a separate hearing to bifurcate the issues and terminate your marital status.

Your response to the petition gives you a chance to be heard before a judge on the issue of ending your marital status. So, you'll need a skilled lawyer to complete and file your response correctly.

If you have reason to believe a bifurcation is suitable to your divorce case, you were perhaps served with a motion requesting bifurcation on the marital status issue.

Your best option is to discuss the issue with an experienced California divorce lawyer who can explain the process and impact of a bifurcation.

Our law firm offers a free case evaluation via phone or contact form. Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys who provide legal representation throughout Southern California.

Call a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer

Family law disputes have the potential to have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness. As a result, it is critical for you to protect your rights to the fullest extent possible when involved in a dispute related to family law. The lawyers of Furman & Zavatsky have the skill and experience to resolve your case as favorably as possible and provide compassionate and understanding legal counsel and representation. We also offer flat fee legal services for divorce and family law issues.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles divorce attorneys, call our office today at 818-528-3471. Read our blog on how to prepare for your first meeting with a divorce lawyer.

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